Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Monday said the Hamas terror group had conducted rocket-launching experiments overnight, with the group preferring continued investment in war than in the well-being of the Gaza Strip’s population.
Speaking a day after the IDF announced it had destroyed another border-crossing Hamas attack tunnel, the third in recent months, Liberman said: “I hear a lot about the humanitarian situation in Gaza, about the difficult situation.
“The budget for Hamas’s military wing in 2017 was $260 million,” the minister said, noting that about $100 million was supplied by Iran. “All of this $260 million was invested in tunnels and in producing rockets. If they had invested $260 million in their water systems or their health systems they would be in a totally different place.”
Liberman said that on Sunday night Hamas “fired three rockets into the sea, and this shows that despite the humanitarian situation and despite shortages in basic supplies they continue” to focus on warfare.
A day earlier Liberman said Israel would destroy all cross-border tunnels built by terrorist groups in Gaza by the end of 2018, saying Israel now had the means to detect them.
Speaking Monday at a faction meeting of the Yisrael Beytenu party, the minister said Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was looking for excuses to avoid peace talks with Israel.
Referring to Abbas’s Sunday speech in which he lashed out at Israel and the US over President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem, Liberman said, “It’s obvious [Abbas] doesn’t want peace. He doesn’t want an accord and he’s looking for an excuse to avoid it. Trump’s announcement was an excuse to dodge direct negotiations.”
He noted Abbas’s refusal of former prime minister Ehud Olmert’s 2008 peace proposal as further proof of his intransigence.
“You can accuse this government of not wanting peace, of being right-wing, [but] you need to remember that even when [Abbas] sat across from Ehud Olmert in Annapolis — and you can’t offer more than Olmert offered at Annapolis — then too [Abbas] said ‘no.'”
Liberman had earlier said Abbas had “lost his senses” following his fiery speech against Trump.
He told Army Radio that Abbas had given up on peace negotiations and opted instead for a confrontation with both Israel and the United States.
“This speech signals that he’s lost self-control, lost the support of the moderate Arab world and has clearly given up on negotiations,” Liberman said.
Abbas sharply escalated his rhetoric in a speech on Sunday, lashing out at Trump over recent policy moves, such as recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Abbas also slammed Trump’s recent Twitter comment threatening to cut American aid and alleging the Palestinians were no longer willing to negotiate a peace deal with Israel.
“Since when did we reject negotiations?” Abbas told members of the Palestinian Central Council, a key decision-making body. “Shame,” Abbas said, addressing Trump.
Liberman told Hadashot news on Sunday that Hamas would not go to war over Israel’s efforts to dismantle its tunnel infrastructure. “Hamas isn’t ready for war, and I don’t think it believes a war will end in a different way than we believe it will end,” he said.
Liberman also said the worsening humanitarian situation in the Strip would not improve until Hamas released two Israelis and the bodies of two IDF soldiers being held hostage by the group.
“There won’t be an improvement in the humanitarian situation until we reach an agreement on our captives,” he said. “Our principle is rehabilitation for disarmament. Without the disarmament of Gaza, we won’t allow its rehabilitation.”